Monday, 8 October 2012

Yellow-legged Gulls

The big boys (owls) didn’t want to come out to play when I was at Borrevannet today. I gave it 4 and a half hours but would undoubtedly have increased my chances if I had been there in the evening. There were seven other birders looking though which at least made it a sociable dip.
Woodpeckers were much in evidence with Lesser Spotted (dvergspett), Great Spotted (flagspett), Green (grønnspett) and Black Woodpecker (svartspett) all showing well.
It looks like the Ural Owl (slagugle) has been present for a few days (and possibly two weeks) so will hopefully hang around a while longer and reward those who persevere (as I write this at 6pm a message has come through that it has just been seen).

With no interesting pictures of owls to show in the blog I thought what bird topic fills me with most enthusiasm. As I couldn’t quiet agree with myself as to the answer to this I thought I might just as well write about the birding topic that undoubtedly fills me with least enthusiasm – the large gull complex formerly (and conveniently) called Herring Gull (gråmåke) but now split into a myriad of different species. In Mallorca there were two species of “Large White-headed Gull”: Auduoin’s Gull (middelhavsmåke) and Yellow-legged Gull (gulbeinmåke). Auduoin’s is a beautiful and easy to identify bird (in adult plumage at least). Yellow-legged Gull on the other hand is ugly and closely resembles the Herring Gulls of northern Europe. Not even the yellow legs of adult birds are enough to identify this species as Herring Gulls can occasionally have equally yellow legs (commonest in Baltic breeders?).
I have decided that I will work on increasing my enthusiasm for LWH Gulls partly as one shouldn’t be birdist but also in the Oslo area there should actually be good opportunities to turn up a real rarity amongst the many hundreds of Herring, Lesser Black-backed (sildemåke) and Great Black-backed Gulls (svartbak). I therefore spent some time looking at the Yellow-legged Gulls in Mallorca and even went as far as taking some pictures which I intend to comment on:

Adult Yellow-legged Gull (gulbeinmåke)

note: yellow legs, dark grey back, black eye patch forming around eye (winter plumage), red orbital eye ring and angular head

Giving diplay call

This bird appeared paler both on the back (approaching Herring Gull) and also on the bill (maybe a 4k?)

Flight shot: looks like P10 and P9 (the two outermost primaries) are not yet fully grown and that P8 is the longest primary. Counting back note the black markings on P5 which is a good difference to Herring Gull. Can you see why I struggle to get excited by this species group?

Yellow-legged Gull 3k

This bird is in its 3rd calendar year (3k) and is transitioning from 2nd summer to 3rd winter plumage. Note the legs are only just getting a yellowish tinge and the mostly black wing tips are unlikely to be of much help
Yellow-legged Gull 2k
2nd calendar bird (2k) transitioning from 1st summer to 2nd winter plumage. Dark eye mask on white face is a good feature
I had previously labelled this bird as a 1cy but the extent of moult including on the coverts shows this to be a 2 cy but obviously not as advanced as the bird above.

Yellow-legged Gull 1k

From behind showing the bold black tail bar and dark tertials with only thin white tips (Herring Gull would have far more patterned tertials)

out of focus but the tail pattern and only slightly paler inner primaries can be seen (Herring Gull would normally have a distinctly paler inner primaries)

Poor picture but showing uperwing of the 1st winter

And finally a picture of a large gull that is nice to look at:

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